One of the best parts about having this blog is “meeting” new authors and learning about their writing styles, books, triumphs and struggles. One thing that has been encouraging to me as an aspiring author is that they (authors) are real people, not just faceless names on the cover of the latest bestseller at Borders. My current author Dina Santorelli even does her own laundry!
I find these interviews inspirational. For while raising a family, completing her Masters degree in creative writing, working as a freelance writer and editor Dina Santorelli wrote her debut thriller novel BABY GRAND. With all that going on if she can commit to writing 1000 words a day I can do it too.
Her novel, BABY GRAND, is the story of a curly-haired toddler, a down-on-her-luck writer and the bad guys who brought them together. Set in present-day New York . BABY GRAND is represented by The Stonesong Press, LLC in New York. (Just in case you wanted to know.)
First I want to thank Dina for taking time out of her busy schedule to visit with me for a few minutes. It seems weird to call Dina a debut novelist when she has over 12 years of writing experience under her belt, yet Baby Grand is her first novel.
1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. At least, I think I did. I was cleaning out my garage the other day and found stories I wrote on colored construction paper when I was 8 or 9 years old.
2. What inspires you to write?
Good writing inspires me most — in books, movies, television shows. For instance, this week I was watching BORED TO DEATH, and there’s a scene when George Christopher, Ted Danson’s character, learns he has prostate cancer. George says, “I can’t die. I haven’t figured anything out.” I love that.
3. What are your writing habits? Do you write a certain amount of pages per day? Do you write at a certain time of day?
When I was finishing my novel, BABY GRAND, I committed to 1,000 words a day, which worked for me. It allowed me to feel as though I accomplished something substantial while still spending time with my family.
4. How do you combat writers block?
Oh, there are so many ways I combat writer’s block, depending upon the day. I’ll take a shower or go for a walk or watch TV — just to get away from the computer. I have a favorite spot on my living room sofa, right by the window, that I like to go to to think.
5. Congratulations on the completion of your book BABY GRAND. Can you tell us a little about it?
Thank you! BABY GRAND is a thriller. This is the description I have on my blog: “A curly-haired toddler, a down-on-her-luck writer and the bad guys who brought them together. Set in present-day New York.” I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to give too much away.
6. What lessons have you learned on your journey to publication thus far that you can pass on to other aspiring authors?
I’ve learned that if you want to be a writer, you have to put your writing first. You can’t treat it like a hobby or else that’s all it will be.
7. Do you think living and working in New York will make publication of your first novel easier?
Not at all. I truly believe it’s about the work. If you produce good work, and work hard to market it, it will find its way to a publisher.
8. It seems that the popularity of e-readers like the Kindle is growing every day. Do you think e-publishing will put brick and mortar bookstores out of business?
I think there will always be a place for bookstores. They’ve said for years that television and the internet would put newspapers out of business. It hasn’t happened yet.
9. Who are your favorite authors and what are you reading now?
I’m a fan of suspense novels and thrillers of all kinds — surprise, surprise. I like Dan Brown, David Baldacci. However, I’m currently reading a chick lit book — The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather by Alexandra Potter.
10. Having recently completed your Masters in English/ Creative writing degree, do you feel a degree is necessary for one to succeed in the publishing world?
I just wrote a blog post about this. Do I think it’s necessary? No. Certainly, there are plenty of successful authors out there without MAs or MFAs. But would I be where I am now without having gone back to get my degree? Probably not. I had the opportunity to present BABY GRAND to an agent earlier this year, and had I not gone back to school I would not have had enough of the manuscript ready to show.
11. As a mom I often have difficulty setting time aside to focus on my writing career. How do you juggle parenting and writing?
How? I don’t sleep. LOL! No, seriously, I write creatively when the kids are sleeping before 7 a.m. and after 8 or 9 p.m. I try to do some creative writing during the day as well, but I am also a freelance journalist so there’s not much time — and, of course, SOMEBODY has to do the laundry.
12. What one piece of writing advice did you receive as an aspiring writer do you think helped you the most in your career?
What I mentioned earlier. I told one of my Hofstra professors that I was struggling with getting BABY GRAND finished, and she said, “You have to put it first.” That is so true.
13. What advice would you give other aspiring writers?
Believe in yourself. Sometimes no one else can see the dream but you. And if you believe in yourself that won’t matter.
14. What question do you get asked the most during your Get Published seminars, and how do you answer it?
Most people come in with a vague question like “How do I get published?” They don’t realize how much work a writer has to put into finding an agent or a publisher and into marketing. In some ways, once the book is written, the work actually begins.
15. On the book GOOD GIRLS DON’T GET FAT you are listed as a “with” author. What exactly does a “with” author do?
Simply, I wrote GOOD GIRLS DON’T GET FAT with the author Robyn Silverman. It was a collaboration. Dr. Robyn has years of experience working with girls, and I helped her take all that knowledge and put it together into an informative and engaging format.
16. Have you won any awards for your writing?
Hmmm… Last year, an essay I wrote was shortlisted in the 2009 Tom Howard Short Story, Essay and Prose Contest.
17.Why types of writing brings you the most joy, fiction or nonfiction?
I would say fiction. I love immersing myself into a totally make-believe place where, after years and years as a journalist, I don’t have to be held accountable for “accuracy” — I don’t have to “check my facts” or “confirm spellings of names.” I just let the words consume me and see where they lead me.
18. Has there been any interest in Baby Grand?
I actually just spoke with my agent today! She is so excited about my manuscript, which, as you can imagine, has me jumping for joy. It was so nice to finally receive specific feedback about the actual writing — although writing is a solitary process, you really are creating a dialog with your reader, and you want to see if your intentions are being understood and if your characters are coming alive. And they are! Yippee! We discussed the book, and the places where perhaps I needed to take another look and develop — my agent knows that I want Baby Grand to be more than a run-of-the-mill thriller. I want it to be smart and funny and relevant. So for the next four weeks I will revisit my characters to be sure they are three-dimensional and that their motivations are authentic and believable. To tell you the truth, I can’t wait! I’ve missed it.
19. What are you working on now?
I just started my second novel, a thriller, called IN THE RED, which features another female protagonist. I love the idea of strong women who don’t see themselves as strong. And then they’re put to the test. And everything changes
20. How would you describe your perfect day?
Easy. Happy, healthy kids + productive writing + a tall glass of chocolate milk = The perfect day. 🙂
That does sound like the perfect day. I’d like to thank Dina for visiting the Alcove today and I wish her and BABY GRAND much success.
Thank you, Lexi!!
For more information about Dina Santorelli and her debut novel BABY GRAND please visit her website.